China Clarifies Rules on Web Video

Privately held online video companies in China are breathing a sigh of relief after the government eased up on ownership rules that were set to take effect this past weekend. The government had initially been set to prohibit anyone other than state-owned or state-controlled companies from streaming or broadcasting videos online, but has now has backed away from that hard-line stance, saying that privately held companies are prohibited from entering the online video market, but video companies that existed before the new rules can continue to operate.

Despite its softened stance, the specter of the Chinese government still looms large. As the CEO of China’s leading video portal, Tudou, told The LA Times, “We are still alive and well and in business as of today, but we don’t really know what will happen next.”

What will happen next — for all Chinese video sites — is that what they upload will undergo tighter screening. Censorship has always been an issue in China, but according to the new regulations, the following content is forbidden: “That which damages China’s unity and sovereignty; harms ethnic solidarity; promotes superstition; portrays violence, pornography, gambling, or terrorism; violates privacy; damages China’s culture or traditions; or violates existing laws of China.”

As The LA Times notes, censoring video is a lot harder than censoring text, and with thousands of clips uploaded daily, monitoring them all becomes a monumental task.

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